I was assigned my first Talon story on Aug. 29, 2017.
Back then, I was a wide-eyed sophomore, in many ways still adjusting to college life and living on my own. In my freshman year I had struggled to build friendships and find a place of belonging on campus, and despite being a declared journalism major, my actual journalism experience was very limited.
I was tasked with writing about progress on the new cafeteria, or what is known today as The Branch. I reached out to expert sources and found random students on campus to interview. As a natural introvert, it was strange and scary to put myself out there like that. I was relieved once I found and interviewed all my sources, but my work had just begun. I spent several hours laboring in front of my laptop trying to craft the best story possible.
This story on the new cafeteria was not the most polished, pressing or widely read article I have ever authored, but it is among the articles I am most proud of. I proved to myself I could not only write for the Talon, but write for a living.
Nearly three years later I have authored a total of 143 Talon articles. In three days I will edit my final Talon story. In 10 days my college career will end for good. It is incredibly hard to believe.
It would be dishonest of me to say every day working for the Talon was great. I struggled tremendously with certain stories and did not always get along with my fellow staff members. I made decisions last year as news editor and this year as editor-in-chief which I regret. But the good days far outnumbered the bad, and every obstacle doubled as an opportunity to learn and grow into a better writer, leader and person.
To the editors who molded me into a better writer, the reporters who accepted my guidance and everyone who has read my articles over the years—thank you. You absolutely enriched my college experience and prepared me to step into the real world.
Speaking of the real world, there is no doubt myself and many other soon-to-be college graduates are wandering into especially uncertain times. There are plenty of people, Talon staff members included, who I likely said my final goodbye to without realizing it. The future may be unknown, but my time with the Talon has taught me to be brave and face adversity head on.
The thing I will remember and admire most about my fellow Talon staffers is their dedication and drive to keep going no matter the circumstances. In early March, we did not shy away from reporting on a difficult story about a campus admissions counselor leading a racist activity at a local high school. We reported on race, suicide, mental health and sexuality. In my role as editor-in-chief this past year, I never had a problem motivating an editor or reporter to tackle a tough story. And despite the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, we are still working remotely and posting multiple articles per day.
I will look back fondly not only on the work we accomplished, but also the relationships we built. Most of our meetings went long as we talked about current events and got caught up on each other’s lives. The newsroom was always a lively place filled with conversation and laughter. Although we may never get another meeting or Christmas party or end of year dinner, I look forward to keeping touch with everyone on staff and seeing what they accomplish in the future.
Technically, the Talon was supposed to fulfill a course requirement and give me the real-world experience necessary to find full-time employment after graduation, and I would say that was accomplished. But the Talon also gave me fantastic friends, lifelong memories and a place to grow as a person.
I may be saying goodbye to writing and editing for the Talon, but I will continue to read and be an avid supporter of this great student publication as I enter into my professional career. In my mind, there is no better small college newspaper in the country, and the Talon will continue to do important work for several years to come.
Keep making me proud, Talon staffers and the Oklahoma Christian University community. I will cheer you on from wherever life takes me next.